Written by Deanna Kane
For city dwellers, having outdoor space is the ultimate goal. If your urban home is equipped with a tiny yard, balcony, or rooftop, maximize every inch to create your own metropolitan oasis. A few tweaks can turn the tiniest outdoor space into a livable, beautiful retreat.
1. Add foliage
Just because you have limited space does not mean you have to sacrifice greenery. Fill your outdoor space with potted plants and vibrant hanging flowers to add color to the area. Small outdoor spaces are also perfect for growing a vertical garden, by securing small flower pots to a lattice screen, or even by planting vines to crawl up the screen. If your thumb is not that green, artificial potted boxwoods lend a polished look to any space. Artificial boxwood hedges also create a clean look, while providing privacy.
2. Accessorize the space
Amp up accessories to maximize the cozy factor. Begin with an outdoor accent rug to anchor the area. Add colorful outdoor pillows and cushions to the seating options, and display a small outdoor bar cart to create an extension of your indoor living room. When the lakefront breeze picks up, have a basket of cotton blankets by the door to stay warm, allowing you to continue to enjoy the fleeting summer evenings.
Garden stools are also a small, outdoor space staple. They are multi-functional and can be used as extra seating, a food rest or to set a beverage. For privacy, outdoor curtains or privacy screens add visual appeal while helping to block out city noise, or too-close neighbors.
3. Plant an herb garden
There is something about growing your own herbs that makes cooking feel more special. Herbs are a low maintenance edible plant that are easy to grow, take up minimal space, and can lend a delicious aroma to the area.
4. Create a dining space
If your outdoor space doesn’t allow for a full table, rely on bistro tables to do the job. Whether you space them out or group them together, having several bistro tables provides a place to serve a meal for a small group. For more informal seating, a bench with outdoor cushions and pillows, surrounded by garden stools and several outdoor ottomans is a perfect place to curl up with a book or to enjoy cocktails and apps, al fresco.
5. Add lighting
Lighting is the finishing touch to creating a cozy outdoor living space. As you sit outside taking in the skyline, watching the traffic below, or catching a glimpse of Lake Michigan in the distance, string lights or lanterns complete the scene when creating your own private urban outdoor oasis.
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When preparing to sell your home, it’s important to consider every step that will increase its appeal to potential buyers. While the existing color scheme made it feel like home to you, pressing the reset button to neutral will help potential buyers envision themselves living in the house. Skip the paint research-induced headaches by using these no-fail staging paint selections, and watch the sold sign go up in no time.
All-Over Neutral: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter
This greige hue is a go-to choice to create a neutral backdrop in open areas. The grey-beige color can appear both warm and cool, depending on lighting. Pair Revere Pewter with white trim for a polished, neutral look.
Suggested rooms: Open spaces, such as family rooms or open concept layouts.
Go-To Gray: Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice
This pale gray option blends in with virtually every design style. Whether your home is traditional, transitional or modern, Crushed Ice will seamlessly blend in the background, letting your home’s selling features shine.
Suggested rooms: This chameleon color can be used throughout the house.
Calming Blue: Benjamin Moore Blue Veil
Help your home evoke vibes of peacefulness and calm, from the minute potential buyers walk through the door. This cool pale blue has enough color to subtly stand out, but not enough to dominate the space.
Suggested rooms: The entryway, gathering spaces or bedrooms.
All-Over White: Benjamin Moore Simply White
With countless white paint options to choose from, it can be the most difficult color to select. This clean white has both warm and cool hues, making it work with a variety of decor styles and appeal to many different tastes.
Suggested rooms: This crisp shade can help entryways or sun-drenched spaces shine.
Create Space: Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace
This bright white can make any space appear larger. Crisp, yet soft, this hue creates a fresh, while cozy vibe. Use this color in rooms you want to create the illusion of additional space.
Suggested rooms: To brighten — and enlarge — a kitchen or master bathroom.
Distract from Poor Lighting: Benjamin Moore White Dove
White Dove works wonders in rooms with poor lighting. Use this shade in rooms without overhead lighting, or in rooms with limited natural light. The soft white hues stay true to color, regardless of the level of light.
Suggested rooms: In the basement, office or bedrooms without sunlight.
Dramatic Neutral: Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal
When you think of neutrals, light hues typically come to mind. However, a dark neutral adds intrigue and style, while making a space memorable to buyers. A dark paint selection also has the ability to make a small space appear larger.
Suggested rooms: This cool, sophisticated color is perfect for an office, dining room or powder room.
Classic Navy: Benjamin Moore Stunning
Another dark neutral, navy paint coordinates with most decor styles and adds an instant level of classic appeal, while not taking itself too seriously.
Suggested rooms: Similar to a charcoal, this timeless hue adds extra richness to an office or den, dining room or guest bathrooms.
Once you have selected your paint selections, getting the right finish can elevate your home’s appearance, as well as hide any flaws on the walls. As a general guide, the higher the sheen the more durable the paint will be.
Rooms prone to moisture (kitchens, bathrooms): Semi-gloss or high gloss finish.
High-traffic areas (family room, play room, living areas): Satin finish, for easy cleaning.
Low-traffic areas (dining room, bedrooms): Eggshell or matte finish.
According to NAR, 77% of buyers’ agents indicated staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home. Before you list your home, follow this list of staging preparations to highlight a home that sells.
Many buyers are looking to move to gain more space, so help the house appear as spacious as possible. Eliminate excess or oversized furniture so potential buyers have the most accurate idea of the room size, as well as space to walk through. If you question if the piece is too large, remove it. Throughout the home, pull the furniture several inches from the walls to allow the corners to be visible.
Closet contents should also be drastically reduced. The amount of belongings in the closet should be sparse, and the floors should be clear. A jam-packed closet appears significantly smaller than it really is.
Lastly, remove clutter from all surfaces. Create four categories — throw out, donate, move to storage and keep. This will show the home is free of visual clutter, and you will also have an easier move out. If your home is filled with an abundance of furniture and decor pieces you don’t want to part with, rent a storage unit for the duration the home is on the market.
Evaluate the amount of personal items throughout the house, including photographs, art, religious symbols, knick-knacks and books. If you think all of the personal items have been edited down, go through and edit one more time. The goal is to allow potential buyers to envision themselves living in the home. A styling trick is to create neutral vignettes — a grouping of accessories often in threes — throughout the home. These accessories could include wall art, candle sticks, vases, all varying in shape, color and texture.
Maintain an immaculate environment
While living in a listed house can be difficult, especially with children or pets, take careful steps to make sure the house stays sparkling clean and odor-free. A house that smells odd to a potential buyer can prevent them from wanting to look through the rest of the house. Rather than masking smells with candles or potpourri, open windows. Run a humidifier and use an air purifier to neutralize the air.
Invest in a professional cleaning service to deep-clean the house, including the baseboards, windows, floors, walls and carpets, to remove both surface stains, as well as odors.
Set one focal point per area
Creating one central focus point can make a room look more cohesive, and can help potential buyers better visualize themselves and their belongings in the space. Once you identify the focal point, style the furniture and decor around it. As a reference, the living room’s focal point can be the fireplace, window or TV; the bedroom is often the headboard and the bathroom is the vanity area.
Select a continual color theme
A fresh coat of paint throughout the home can go a long way. Select a neutral paint palette that seamlessly transitions throughout the house. This color flow makes the house feel more open and larger, and offers a blank canvas that many buyers crave.
Let in the light
Allow as much light to come in as possible. Open draperies and shades, remove unnecessary blinds and move any items that may obstruct windows or other light sources. A bright, airy home is one of the first features a potential buyer will notice.
Don’t forget the exterior
The front door is the first impression — make it count. Make sure the landscaping is manicured, the front door is in good condition, the exterior lighting is functional and there are seasonal arrangements on the front porch. Pressure washing the siding and deck can also make a big impact.
It’s time to break out that Michael Bublé album and immerse yourself in the magic of the holidays. Fortunately for us, nobody does holiday fun better than Chicago. With that in mind we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most festive events in Chicago this holiday season.
Randolph St. Market Festival | Chicago Plumber’s Hall (West Loop) | December 15th & 16th
Head to the Randolph Street Market Festival to find the most unusual and stylish mix of vintage and modern fashion, jewelry, decorative objects, housewares and hostess gifts available.
Memorable and exciting treasures in all price ranges await you at the Randolph Street Holiday Market.
Frosty’s Christmas Bar | Goose Island | Until January 6th
If you’ve ever dreamed of grabbing a drink with Santa, then boy do we have the bar for you. Frosty’s pop-up Christmas bar in Goose Island is the ultimate destination for festive fun, and lively libations, featuring wall-to-wall decorations across three levels, a holiday themed soundtrack and Singing Santa shows every hour on the hour.
Put on your favorite holiday sweater, grab a festive holiday punch from one of the four bars and get ready to dance the night away.
Plan your trip to Frosty’s here.
37th Annual Holiday Treasure Hunt and Tea Party | Art Institute of Chicago | December 9th
Learn about select works and enjoy an array of family-friendly activities as you visit five stops within the museum’s galleries and the Ryan Learning Center.
Your tour will culminate with a stop by the historic Stock Exchange Trading Room for a tea party featuring delicious refreshments, live entertainment, and a gift bag for each child.
Head here for more information.
Ugly Sweater Party/Beginner Salsa Dancing | Duet Dance Studio | December 14th
If you’re looking to burn some calories, check out Duet’s Ugly Sweater Party to wear your ugliest holiday sweater and get your salsa dance on.
The event includes a 45-minute beginner salsa class, Duet’s student and teacher performances, as well as open dancing and mingling. Guests must be 21+ for this event.
Head here for more information.
Christkindlmarket | Daley Plaza (Chicago Loop) | Until December 24th
There are few events that evoke the holiday spirit more than the annual Christkindlmarket in the Chicago Loop. Shop iconic German items like nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, and hand-blown ornaments.
Along with traditional toys and holiday-themed items, you can find a bevy of delicious authentic German cuisine like sausages, potato pancakes, beer, and assorted sweets.
Head here for more information on Christkindlmarket.
A Christmas Carol | Goodman Theater (Chicago Loop) | Until December 30th
If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit via theater, this is the event for you.
Head to Chicago’s Goodman Theater to catch the annual run of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This is an event for the whole family, with a message of hope, charity and kindness towards others.
Head here for more information.
ZooLights | Lincoln Park Zoo | Until January 6th
A tradition in Chicago, Lincoln Park ZooLights is something you do not want to miss this wintertime. This is a family-oriented holiday celebration, so you’re sure to enjoy at any age.
Enjoy the luminous displays as well as the holiday-season activities throughout the zoo. ZooLights is free, but be sure to check the schedule before you plan your visit since some nights are special themed events that may require a ticket.
You can find the schedule here.
Christmas Around the World | Museum of Science and Industry | Until January 6th
This holiday season head to the Museum of Science and Industry to explore holiday traditions from around the globe. The museum’s annual celebration features a four-story grand tree surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures across the globe.
On the weekends you can even enjoy live holiday performances and photos with Santa.
Head here for more information on the exhibit.
The Polar Express Train Ride | Chicago Union Station | Until January 1st
If you’re looking to recreate the magic of The Polar Express, look no further. This holiday season, head to Chicago’s Union Station to board The Polar Express Train Ride.
This is a magical one-hour trip through the neighborhoods along the Chicago River that includes all the bells and whistles. Literally, as each passenger gets to take home a keepsake sleigh bell.
For more information on The Polar Express Train Ride, head here.
Winter WonderFest | Navy Pier | Until January 6th
The ultimate destination for indoor family fun, Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest is a favored Chicago holiday tradition spanning across 170,000 square feet of attractions for the whole family, with rides, giant slides, ice skating, and lots of festive decor.
Buy tickets online or at the Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest box office until January 6, 2019.
Head here for more information on Winter WonderFest.